Why Do People Want Children? – The Selfish Part Of the Story

Why Do People Want Children
Why Do People Want Children

You may be thinking of having a child and asking yourself if having children is selfish and whether doing this for the wrong reasons. This can be split into two parts. The environmental question is fascinating, but not really for this website, and the one that looks more at us as people and our relationship with the child. We will firstly deal with whether it is selfish for us to have children environmentally as sometimes this is given to us as an argument.

With climate change and scarce resources, they think that we have a responsibility to the planet to look at our possible impact. According to an IPCC report, global temperatures could reach an irreversible tipping point in just 12 years if the world doesn’t act to cut down the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

Others point out that many children in the world need looking after already. 3.1 million children die of hunger every year. There are more than 500,000 children in foster care in the United States alone. The world is overpopulated, forecasting to reach the 8 billion milestone in 2023 and increasing to 10 billion by the middle of the century.

So is having children the ultimate act of environmental selfishness? We can quickly see that if no one had any more children, the human race would become extinct. Also, having a world average of just over two children means that the world population will level off. Environmentally it is not really the number of children we have but how we live. A childless couple who fly every week for a city break is causing far more pollution than a family of five living locally going on one or two holidays a year. There is no environmental reason for people not to have children, but there is a responsibility for us to live environmentally responsibly.

Selfish Reasons Why People Have Children

In this context, selfishness may be described as having a child because of something you stand to gain. Below are some selfish reasons why people have children.

  • They want someone to love them unconditionally. The collective understanding of having a child is that one is expected to love them unconditionally. But many parents seek to have children as they want unconditional love back. It sometimes happens that these parents had strained relationships with their own parents, and love was absent. So they look to get that love from their upspring. The problem here is that the child now has to bear the responsibility of supplying love.
  • They want to leave a legacy. Another selfish reason people have children is that they want something to leave behind as their legacy. The problem with this line of thinking is that the child has to go through life as their parents’ extension. In many cases, the parents put an unbelievable amount of pressure on their children to do well because they want their children’s success to reflect well on them. On the children’s part, there’s no room for mistakes. Every mistake feels like an unforgivable failure, which steers resentment in children.
  • They use it as a ploy to get someone into marriage or to keep a marriage going. There’s a lot of evidence pointing to the fact that a baby doesn’t heal a broken marriage or relationship, nor is it a good idea to use it to lure another into marriage. But that hasn’t stopped people from having a baby for precisely these reasons. Marriages like that are likely to end in divorce, with everyone miserable. Bringing a child into the world to fix a marriage doesn’t solve a problem. It is more likely to exasperate any issues in it.
  • To give their life a purpose. Though there’s some form of purpose to be gained in parenting, it shouldn’t be a person’s primary purpose for getting into it. Purpose is something you should find for yourself, not something to burden another human being with, even if you’re the one that gave birth to them. It’s easily one of those wrong reasons to have a baby, and it can make you view your child’s existence as a source of enrichment for you. You may struggle to see your child as a complete individual in their own right.
  • To measure up and belong. Other people’s life can make one feel like they’re not where they should be. This can stoke the desire to have children just to measure up. For example, a man can suddenly want to be a father because his friends are having babies. He wants to fit in and feel like he belongs with his cycle of friends.

Final Thoughts on Why do People Have Children?

Going into parenthood for selfish reasons doesn’t always translate to bad parenting. Many parents still go ahead to be level-headed and loving parents to their children. But it requires work. You need to work hard to spot how your motivation for having a child manifests in your parenting. But try not to get too bogged down by your reason. Your child is here now, and you have to be mindfully present. As Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell wrote in Parenting from the Inside Out, “When we are fully present as parents, when we are mindful, it enables our children to fully experience themselves in the moment. Children learn about themselves by the way we communicate with them.”